Russian strike on Kramatorsk, Ukraine kills two

Local residents walk past a house destroyed by recent shelling in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict in the settlement of Panteleimonivka in the Donetsk region, Russian-controlled Ukraine, February 17, 2024. (REUTERS)
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Updated 18 February 2024
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Russian strike on Kramatorsk, Ukraine kills two

  • Alexander, who lives in the residential neighborhood that came under attack told AFP he heard a loud noise followed by an explosion

KRAMATORSK, Ukraine: Russian rocket fire killed at least two people in the eastern city of Kramatorsk Saturday night, the regional governor said.
AFP journalists at the scene saw rescue workers carrying a victim from a destroyed two-story home in a white body bag, as emergency services dug through rubble for survivors.
Ukraine’s Donetsk Governor Vadim Filashkin said Russia had fired three rockets at Kramatorsk.
“Rescuers pulled the body of a woman born in 1977 from the rubble,” he wrote on social media, adding later that the body of a 23-year-old man had also been found.
One more person was feared buried under the piles of broken concrete and debris, he added.
Alexander, who lives in the residential neighborhood that came under attack told AFP he heard a loud noise followed by an explosion.
“I was in the hall playing with my two-year-old daughter,” the 25-year-old said. “She was hysterical.
“All the window frames and doors were blown out from our house,” he added.
Dozens of rescue workers were at the scene of the strike working by lamplight, using construction vehicles, their hands and shovels at times to shift the debris.
At one point they cut floodlights powered by loud generators to listen for signs of life under debris next to a two-meter crater.
A neighbor who arrived at the scene of the strike in shock appealed to police for information.
“Tell me, are they alive? I’ll call Sasha now. Maybe he’s alive,” she cried.
The authorities did not immediately identify the victims.
Air raids sirens rang out over the city warning of fresh strikes as the rescue operation was ongoing.
A spokeswoman for the regional administration said the strike followed an escalating pattern of indiscriminate Russian attacks on civilians.
There was no immediate comment from Moscow but the Kremlin has repeatedly denied its forces target civilian infrastructure.
Kramatorsk is around 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the frontlines in eastern Ukraine.
It has come under repeated Russian attack since the start of the war two years ago, including an April 2022 strike on the city’s train station that killed more than 60 people.
 

 


NYC college suspends officer who told pro-Palestinian protester ‘I support killing all you guys’

Updated 8 sec ago
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NYC college suspends officer who told pro-Palestinian protester ‘I support killing all you guys’

  • An unidentified protester filmed the officer at Thursday’s graduation for the College of Staten Island, part of the public City University of New York system that was rocked by a recent police crackdown on campus protests

NEW YORK: A campus safety officer at a public college in New York City has been suspended after footage circulated online showing him cursing at pro-Palestinian protesters during a graduation ceremony and saying he supported killing them all, the school confirmed Friday.

An unidentified protester filmed the officer at Thursday’s graduation for the College of Staten Island, part of the public City University of New York system that was rocked by a recent police crackdown on campus protests.
In a highly edited video shared by Instagram accounts affiliated with student protest organizers, a demonstrator can be heard yelling at the officer, “You support genocide!”
“Yes I do, I support genocide,” says the officer. “I support killing all you guys, how about that?”
In another clip posted in the video, the officer can be heard hurling an expletive at another protester, followed by “your mother.”
Phone calls and emails seeking comment from the officer on Friday were unsuccessful. A person who answered a number listed under his name hung up when a reporter identified themself, and emails were not immediately returned.
CUNY confirmed the suspension Friday but declined to provide details, such as whether the officer was on paid leave.
“We condemn the offensive language used by a CUNY officer,” College of Staten Island spokesperson David Pizzuto said in a statement. “His words don’t reflect the values of the College of Staten Island or the 50 officers on our Public Safety staff. The officer has been suspended pending a full review of the incident, and we will take further action as appropriate.”
Protest camps sprang up across the US and in Europe as students demand their universities stop doing business with Israel or companies that support its war efforts. Organizers seek to amplify calls to end Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, which they describe as a genocide against the Palestinians.
The United Nations’ top court ordered Israel on Friday to immediately halt its military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, but stopped short of ordering a ceasefire for entire Palestinian territory. The International Court of Justice has said there is a “plausible risk of genocide” in Gaza — a charge Israel strongly denies.


French city postpones Israeli film festival amid Gaza tensions

Updated 24 May 2024
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French city postpones Israeli film festival amid Gaza tensions

  • The city council did not give a reason for the postponement
  • The Shalom Europa festival said on its Facebook page that “events” had forced the decision to hold the event at a “calmer” time

STRASBOURG, France: An Israeli film festival in the eastern French city of Strasbourg has been indefinitely postponed as the Gaza war rages, authorities said Friday.
The Shalom Europa festival has been hosted in the city for 15 years and was scheduled to be held from June 16 to June 20. But France has reported an increased number of anti-Semitic attacks since the Gaza war erupted on October 7.
The city council did not give a reason for the postponement but said Strasbourg “has always supported the Shalom Europa festival and will continue to do so. It promises to help hold the festival on a date that is opportune for the organizers.”
The Israeli community group that organizes the event did not reply to AFP requests for comment.
The Shalom Europa festival said on its Facebook page that “events” had forced the decision to hold the event at a “calmer” time, adding that “The safety and well-being of our participants is our absolute priority.”
The French Jewish community, the third largest in the world, has for months been on edge in the face of a growing number of attacks and desecrations of memorials.
On May 17, French police shot dead a man who set fire to a synagogue in the northern city of Rouen.


UK government ‘unequivocally failing’ Palestinians in Gaza, says charity adviser

Updated 24 May 2024
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UK government ‘unequivocally failing’ Palestinians in Gaza, says charity adviser

  • Save the Children official questions UK’s commitment to upholding international humanitarian law
  • Young people in Gaza enduring ‘the most dangerous and dire situation for children anywhere in the world’

LONDON: Palestinians in Gaza, and particularly young people, are being “unequivocally failed” by the British government, a charity adviser said on Friday.

Liz Bradshaw, Save the Children’s senior adviser on the Israel-Hamas conflict, told The Independent newspaper that a “shameful failure by the UK government” was having a huge impact on youngsters living through “the most dangerous and dire situation for children anywhere in the world.”

Health officials in Gaza say more than 35,000 Palestinians, over half of them women and children, have been killed in the territory since Oct. 7 and the outbreak of an Israeli retaliation for a Hamas attack in southern Israel, which claimed around 1,200 lives.

Bradshaw said UK arms sales to Israel were having a “high impact” on the lives of Palestinian civilians. David Cameron, the UK foreign secretary, recently admitted that he was “not really interested” in stopping weapon sales to Israel.

Children in Gaza faced immediate physical risk “from horrific blast injuries caused by the use of explosive weapons in intensely dense populated areas, like Rafah, or from amputations, leaving them in agonizing pain,” Bradshaw said.

She added that, in places like Rafah where the Israeli military is engaged in an offensive, people were facing repeated displacement “in some cases, four or five, six times condensed into ever smaller areas, where frankly, there just simply aren’t the conditions for that number of people to survive.”

According to Bradshaw, children in Gaza are in acute need of mental health support to deal with the “lifelong” psychological scars they will have gained from what they have witnessed.

She also called into question the UK government’s commitment to upholding international humanitarian law and to protecting civilians suffering in Gaza.

“The UK speaks in very powerful terms about protection of civilians in other parts of the world like Ukraine, so why are we not seeing the same level of commitment and concern in relation to Palestinian children in Gaza?” she asked.

“It’s pretty abject stuff. We hear a lot about the deep concern that they have, but frankly, their deep concern is meaningless to children in Gaza. And it’s meaningless to our staff who are desperately battling against the odds to help children. We need action, not words from this government, and it’s long, long overdue.”


Germany, Portugal say time not ripe to recognize Palestinian state

Updated 24 May 2024
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Germany, Portugal say time not ripe to recognize Palestinian state

  • “There is no clarity about the territory of the state and other questions related to it,” Scholz said
  • Montenegro said Portugal was also “not in the position to” recognize a Palestinian state

BERLIN: The leaders of Germany and Portugal said Friday the time was not ripe to recognize a Palestinian state, after three other European nations announced plans to do so.
“We have no reason to recognize the Palestinian Authority as a separate state now,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz told a press conference after talks with Portuguese Prime Minister Luis Montenegro.
“There is no clarity about the territory of the state and other questions related to it,” he said.
“What we need is a negotiated solution between Israel and the Palestinians that amounts to a two-state solution... but we are still a long way from there,” he said.
“Symbolic recognition of statehood does not bring us further” toward the goal, he added.
Speaking at the same press conference, Montenegro said Portugal was also “not in the position to” recognize a Palestinian state.
“We are waiting for the (related) issues to be further discussed within the European Union,” he added.
Ireland, Norway and Spain on Wednesday announced they intended to recognize the State of Palestinian next week.
The announcement drew fury from Israel, which warned of “serious consequences” for ties with the European nations.
For decades, formal recognition of a Palestinian state has been seen as the end goal of a peace process between Palestinians and Israel.
The United States and most western European nations have said they are willing to one day recognize Palestinian statehood, but not before agreement is reached on thorny issues like final borders and the status of Jerusalem.


Top UN court orders Israel to halt military operation in Rafah, Israel is unlikely to comply

Updated 24 May 2024
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Top UN court orders Israel to halt military operation in Rafah, Israel is unlikely to comply

  • The ICJ order further ratchets up international pressure on an increasingly isolated Israel to rein in its war on Hamas in Gaza
  • Friday’s decision marked the third time this year the 15-judge panel has issued preliminary orders seeking to rein in the death toll and alleviate humanitarian suffering in Gaza

THE HAGUE: The top United Nations court has ordered Israel to halt its military operations in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. Israel insists it has the right to defend itself from Hamas militants and is unlikely to comply with the ruling.
The order by the International Court of Justice further ratchets up international pressure on an increasingly isolated Israel to rein in its war on Hamas in Gaza.
Friday’s decision marked the third time this year the 15-judge panel has issued preliminary orders seeking to rein in the death toll and alleviate humanitarian suffering in Gaza.
While orders are legally binding, the court has no police to enforce them.
Earlier Friday, the ICJ opened its hearing to rule on the request to order Israel to halt its military operation in Gaza and withdraw from the enclave.
Criticism of Israel’s conduct in the war in Gaza has been growing — even from its closest ally, the United States, which warned against an invasion of the southern city of Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have sought shelter from fighting elsewhere. And this week alone, three European countries announced they would recognize a Palestinian state, and the chief prosecutor for another UN court requested arrest warrants for Israeli leaders, along with Hamas officials.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also under heavy pressure at home to end the war, which was triggered when Hamas-led militants stormed into Israel, killing 1,200 people, most civilians, and taking some 250 captive. Thousands of Israelis have joined weekly demonstrations calling on the government to reach a deal to bring the hostages home, fearing that time is running out.
While the International Court of Justice has broad powers to order an end to the Israeli military campaign and any such ruling would be a blow to Israel’s international standing, it does not have a police force to enforce its orders. In another case on its docket, Russia has so far ignored a 2022 order by the court to halt its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Israel signaled it, too, would brush off an ICJ order to stop its operations. “No power on earth will stop Israel from protecting its citizens and going after Hamas in Gaza,” Avi Hyman, the government spokesperson, said in a press briefing Thursday.
The court’s president, Nawaf Salam, opened Friday’s hearing, as a small group of pro-Palestinian protesters demonstrated outside.
The ceasefire request is part of a case filed late last year by South Africa accusing Israel of committing genocide during its Gaza campaign. Israel vehemently denies the allegations. The case will take years to resolve, but South Africa wants interim orders to protect Palestinians while the legal wrangling continues.
At public hearings last week at the International Court of Justice, South Africa’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Vusimuzi Madonsela, urged the panel of 15 international judges to order Israel to “totally and unconditionally withdraw” from the Gaza Strip.
The court has already found that Israel’s military operations pose a “real and imminent risk” to the Palestinian people in Gaza.
Israel’s offensive has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians. The operation has obliterated entire neighborhoods, sent hundreds of thousands of people fleeing their homes, and pushed parts of the territory into famine.
“This may well be the last chance for the court to act,” Irish lawyer Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh, who is part of South Africa’s legal team, told judges last week.
Israel rejects the claims by South Africa, a nation with historic ties to the Palestinian people.
“Israel takes extraordinary measures in order to minimize the harm to civilians in Gaza,” Tamar Kaplan-Tourgeman, a member of Israel’s legal team, told the court last week.
In January, ICJ judges ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide in Gaza, but the panel stopped short of ordering an end to the military offensive. In a second order in March, the court said Israel must take measures to improve the humanitarian situation.
The ICJ rules in disputes between nations. A few kilometers (miles) away, the International Criminal Court files charges against individuals it considers most responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
On Monday, its chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, said he has asked ICC judges to approve arrest warrants for Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and three top Hamas leaders — Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh — of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip and Israel.
Israel is not an ICC member, so even if the arrest warrants are issued, Netanyahu and Gallant do not face any immediate risk of prosecution. But the threat of arrest could make it difficult for the Israeli leaders to travel abroad.